Essentials of an incentive programSix essential steps are required when developing incentive programs for members. The specifics of the programs will vary, depending on the resources available to you.
Step one: Identify a "champion" on your team who will create and drive the program. Successful programs require a champion — a dedicated, passionate individual on your staff who will come up with program ideas, create awareness and enthusiasm for the program among members and staff, and administer the program. This can take anywhere from five to 20 hours a week per program, depending on the scope of the program and the staff member's level of commitment. If your "champion" has many responsibilities within your organization, he or she may feel overwhelmed, and may not be able to give the program the appropriate attention. Before moving forward with incentive-based programs, make sure your potential champion has the time, the creativity and the resources (people and money) available. The main reason programs fail is lack of a champion.
Step two: Determine the incentive or reward based on what people want and what they are willing to do to get it. For some people, just being involved in a program is enough of an incentive. Many people need the structure and increased excitement a program provides to stay motivated. The program gives them a means to an end. But, more often, people expect some reward for their extra efforts.
Incentives for completion of programs can range from the standard T-shirt or "club bucks" to more extravagant items like trips and automobiles. You might be surprised what retail businesses are willing to donate or sponsor for the opportunity to get their name in front of your members.
Once you settle on the rewards (grand prize, first prize, group prize, etc.), you can determine your budget and decide whether there will be a fee to participate in the program. If you decide to charge a fee, whether you are giving a T-shirt to all participants or a substantial cash prize to just one winner, you will need to ensure that you at least cover the program costs, including the rewards.
Some programs are designed simply to motivate members and to drive member referrals. These programs may operate at a loss at first glance. They are typically planned well in advance, and are included in your annual budget. For example, say you decide to offer a large group exercise class on your basketball court on a Saturday morning. The event is free for members and to any guest they wish to invite. To make the event special, you contract a celebrity fitness instructor to teach the class, fly him or her to your city and put him or her up in a hotel. You provide refreshments, rent large speakers and purchase a professionally designed poster to advertise the event. Other departments are also involved: Massage therapists provide complimentary mini-massages, the day spa provides complimentary make-overs, personal trainers offer a free assessment. All of this is going to cost a bit of money and staff time. However, to get a true picture of the success of the event, don't forget to track the number of guests who joined because of the fun they had. Include in your tracking the increased revenue that the massage, personal training and day spa departments generated as a direct result of the event.
Step three: Ensure the program makes people feel like they are part of a group. Being involved with other people is a huge factor in motivating members to participate. The program provides them with something in common and something they can talk about. Participating in a program is a great way to meet new friends. Ask your team to post weekly results and progress. Participants who like competition can rank their performance against others, while those who do not can plot their own progress and feel proud of their accomplishments.
Step four: Make the program fun. Ideas that your team are excited about are fun to execute. And, when staff is excited and having fun, their enthusiasm rubs off onto members. Involve staff in brainstorming sessions when developing new or redesigning existing programs. The energy and input of other people is invaluable, and you will have greater success getting your team to buy into the idea by making them part of the process.
Step five: Communicate clear and specific instructions, rules and goals. Put all rules and instructions in writing so participants understand what they must accomplish in order to receive the reward. Put your facility's goals for the program into writing, also, so you can gauge your success.
Step six: Recognize and reward the participants who succeed. Participants can be recognized on your website or newsletter, the local newspaper, your main bulletin board or at an awards banquet that all participants are invited to attend. You might decorate the winner's rented locker, send a card to the winner's home or office, send an email, or post an alert on your check-in software so front desk staff can congratulate him or her when he or she enters your facility.
Ideas for incentive programsRather than reinventing the wheel, take a look at your existing programs, choose one and give it a new twist. Change the name, prize, rules, destination or venue; bring in a local celebrity as a special guest speaker; add an additional service; or make a traditionally one-on-one activity team-oriented.
Keep your eyes and ears open for new ideas at all times. The best program ideas can come to you when you least expect it. Familiar board games like Monopoly and Chutes and Ladders work well as incentive programs. Television and video games provide more ideas than you can use. There are hundreds of ideas around you every day; just reach up and pick one.
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Ithaca College Athletics and Events Center